IC appears to be bladder infection, but it isn’t

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DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have suffered with interstitial cystitis for the past four years. A urologist treated me for two years by instilling heparin into my bladder. He dismissed me by saying, “I don’t want to see you again.” Unbelievable, but true. I am at my wits’ end with having to urinate so frequently. Is there anything that can be done for this condition? — J.M.

ANSWER: Urgently and constantly running to the bathroom to empty the bladder is the principal sign of interstitial cystitis. Painful urination is another sign. It can make intercourse uncomfortable. Many women have seen doctor after doctor and have been treated for bladder infections, when the actual problem is IC. It often takes years before a light comes on to a doctor who finally makes the correct diagnosis. It’s something that can happen to men, but women are the predominant victims.

Something disrupts the protective layer of the bladder’s surface. Irritating substances in the urine bathe the bladder surface to cause the symptoms. Helpful in making the diagnosis is a direct look into the bladder with a scope and finding changes typical of IC.

One way to treat it is through dietary changes. Eliminate any food that seems to make matters worse. Acidic foods are the ones most often not tolerated. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, chocolate, carbonated beverages, coffee, tea and alcohol frequently appear on lists of foods to avoid. Prelief tablets buffer the acidity of food. This product is made by AkPharma — 800-994-4711 and on the Web at www.akpharma.com.

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Elmiron capsules (prescription required) have helped many. Bathing the bladder with heparin is another often-used treatment. It hasn’t worked for you. Elavil, an antidepressant, can control pain.

Rather than listing all the medicines used, let me direct you to the Interstitial Cystitis Association at 800-435-7422 or online at www.ichelp.org. The association can provide you with the latest information on treatment and with valuable tips on control.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 75 and in good health. I love nuts, groundnuts being my favorite. For years I have eaten my oatmeal with flaxseed, oat bran, six or eight prunes and a small handful of walnuts. I hear almonds are better for you than walnuts, and now they say pistachios are the best. Please set the record straight. It’s about to drive me nuts. — B.W.

ANSWER: Most nutty experts put walnuts in first place. They’ve been shown to reduce heart disease. Other nuts are just about as good — almonds, macadamias, pistachios and peanuts. It seems to me to be a matter of preference.

About groundnuts, I am ignorant. In some parts of the country, peanuts are called groundnuts. But there is another kind of nut that sprouts from the roots of a plant called Apios americana and is called a groundnut. I don’t know if this qualifies as a real nut with the same benefits of those I mentioned.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please address musical ear syndrome and its causes and remedies. I have a 93-year-old friend who hears music playing, but no one else hears it. His doctors haven’t heard of this syndrome. My friend is afraid to tell others out of fear of being institutionalized. — J.T.

ANSWER: Musical hallucinations — hearing a song or a series of songs or music almost without stop — afflicts more people than you might think. Many of them have poor hearing. Dulled hearing puts a person in a soundproof environment. Background noise that assaults our ears constantly suppresses sounds that the brain generates on its own. That’s one explanation for musical hallucinations. A hearing aid might do away with the music. Having a radio playing, day and night, is another way to drown out the inner music. Medicines that reduce anxiety can help afflicted people get to sleep.

When this topic comes up, readers write about loose dental fillings capturing radio waves and broadcasting them to the brain. Repairing those fillings, they say, stops the music.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.

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